American Haiku Poet
1921 - 2002
Art, music and poetry should be appreciated in the heart. Recent scientific research indicates that the heart has its own intelligence separate from the brain. Creative leaders understand the heart's intelligence and have learned to listen to their hearts when creating works of art. Are you listening to your heart?
Meditate for five minutes on the love within your heart. Then write a poem or paint a picture from the heart. Don't think, analyze or question. Just write. Just paint.
About the Poet
In 1981, I was privileged to have dinner with Robert Spiess in Madison, Wisconsin. We discussed haiku, the magazine, Modern Haiku, and his kayaking the rivers of Wisconsin. He was a gentle, soft-spoken man.
Robert Spiess was born on October 16, 1921 at 2 am in Milwaukee, WI to Myrtle and Oscar Spiess. He was their only child. The gregarious Oscar Spiess, was a sales representative for Miller Brewing Company. Robert remembered his father as a storehouse of jokes and pranks. Once Oscar cut the yoke out of his wife's egg and replaced it with the half of an apricot.
A high school English teacher inspired Robert's interest in poetry. He entered the University of Wisconsin in 1939. World War II interrupted his college education and he joined the Army Air Force. He served as a cryptographer in the Pacific. When Eleanor Roosevelt visited the troops, Robert was surprised to have her join his buddies and him for breakfast one morning. He was discharged in October of 1945 and returned to college where he graduated in June 1947 with a degree in botany. A year later he received a master's in vocational guidance. He worked as a employment counselor.
Spiess discovered haiku in the late 1930's. Robert's first haiku were published in the American Poetry Magazine in 1949. He often wrote his haiku while sailing, canoeing or kayaking. In 1963 his haiku were published in American Haiku, the first magazine devoted solely to English-language haiku. In the mid-sixties he served as editor of American Haiku. In 1969, Kay Titus Mormino founded Modern Haiku which published several of Robert's haiku. By the third issue, he was an associate editor and assumed the role of editor and publisher in 1978 which he held until his death.
Robert Spiess published haiku in many publications including American Haiku, Haiku West, Cicada, Dragonfly, High/Coo, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Leanfrog and Windchimes. He also published ten books.
Here are a few of his haiku from his book, The Turtle's Ears.
An open channel
winding through the river ice
. . . the old green canoe
Morning river mist;
somewhere in the distance
the drumming of a grouse
in the marsh
Tar paper cabin
behind the river's white birch
— a muskellunge leaps
Shooting the rapids!
— a glimpse of a meadow
gold with butterflies
Muddy summer stream . . .
finding an abandoned farm
with a useless pump
Here is a video discussing the intelligence of the heart.
Spiess, Robert. The Turtle's Ears. Wells Printing Company, 1971.
Spiess, Robert. New and Selected Speculations on Haiku, p. 26.